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An Exploration of Relational Aggression in the Nursing Workplace

Dellasega, Cheryl PhD, CRNP; Volpe, Rebecca L. PhD; Edmonson, Cole DNP, RN, FACHE, NEA-BC; Hopkins, Margaret MA, MEd

Journal of Nursing Administration: April 2014 - Volume 44 - Issue 4 - p 212–218
doi: 10.1097/NNA.0000000000000052

OBJECTIVE: This study provides a 1st look at relational aggression (RA) and the consequences among nurses.

BACKGROUND: Interpersonal hostility, bullying, and a toxic work environment (WE) can impact patient care delivery as well as nurses’ personal health and job satisfaction.

METHODS: The Relational Aggression Assessment Scale, measuring aggressors, victims, and bystanders, was used to measure RA in a sample of 842 nurses. Additional variables measured included a demographic profile, job satisfaction, and intent to leave.

RESULTS: Nurses were most likely to identify with victim behaviors, but a minority of nurses reported relying on aggressor behaviors and bystander behaviors. There was a positive correlation among aggressor, victim, and bystander items, suggesting overlap in roles.

CONCLUSIONS: A few relationally aggressive individuals can create a toxic WE. Interventions to address RA among nurses must be tested, as well as strategies for improving job satisfaction and promoting healthy WEs through positive relationships.

Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text.

Author Affiliations: Professor of Humanities and Professor of Women’s Studies (Dr Dellasega); Assistant Professor (Dr Volpe); and Research Assistant (Ms Hopkins), College of Medicine, Department of Humanities, The Pennsylvania State University, Hershey; and Chief Nursing Officer (Dr Edmonson), Texas Health Dallas.

The project described was supported by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through grant UL1 TR000127.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the views of the National Institutes of Health.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Dr Volpe, Department of Humanities, H134, 500 University Dr, Hershey, PA 17033 (

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins